Sunday, June 7, 2015

Create And Earn Tip #3 - Monetary Value for Image-Only Graphics

What am I trying to say with "Monetary Value"?  Well, it is my way of suggesting your graphics should be designed with the costumer in mind.  That means the costumer should be able to find some sort of value in your images.  Why?  Because if they find it, they will buy them and you will get money.  And if they don't, you won't get any money.  Simple, eh?

Zazzle, Redbubble, Cafepress, Skreened, Spreadshirt and many many more POD websites are a great tool to generate revenue selling your pictures or just any other type of graphic.  That is if anyone in the internet thinks they are worth purchasing.  For that same reason you can't just try to draw what you consider to be an angry red face and hope someone will buy it.  I mean, yes, there is a small chance someone will buy it, but chances are no one will buy that thing.  And how do I know that?  

Yes, you guessed it.  Back in 2009 I though I had what it takes to be a successful graphic designer.  So, armed with Photoshop 3.0 and not lots of imagination I created and tried to sell this:

Angry Red Face T-shirts
Angry Red Face T-shirts by Supernova23
Shop for Basic T-Shirts online at

So, how many times has this particular design been purchased in the 6 years it has been in the Zazzle marketplace?  You're right zero, cero, nada, 0, a complete failure.  Why? And more importantly, how come now I can create graphics that people have bought just days after they were introduced into the different marketplaces that help us distribute our graphics?

The answer is very simple: Monetary Value.

Back in 2009, when this Angry Red Face was created, I thought people liked the same things I liked.  I'm not going to lie, I enjoyed every second it took me to create this face and the thought of making money out of images that came to my mind really brightened my day.  But the reality is there needs to be a strategy behind every image, a strong reason why people will buy your image.  Remember, you're not designing for yourself, your creating graphics for others.  Well, that is if you're serious about making any kind of money in any POD website.

But what actually is "monetary value"?  There are 3 components that make up monetary value.  Those elements are:  Subject, Image Creation Quality, and Advertisement.

To illustrate this I'm going to post the most successful image-only graphic I've created so far.  Here is Vintage Los Angeles Theater Sign:

Vintage Los Angeles Theatre Sign Pillow
Vintage Los Angeles Theatre Sign Pillow by Supernova23a
View other Los Angeles theatre signs Pillows at

If we compare both images, we can easily see why one has been purchased many times by different people when the other has never been bought.

Both images have a subject.  In one the subject is the representation of an angry red face and in the other it is a vintage sign of a theatre in Los Angeles.

As far as beauty goes, this elegant vintage sign is a lot more pleasing to the eye compared to an abstract image of an angry red face.  I believe there's a certain beauty in the combination of black and white and just any other color (in this case red), but that's not a reason strong enough to make you want to purchase it.

In the previous tip I wrote, I touched on the subject of beauty.  When it comes to my image-only graphics, I try to make beauty the sole reason why someone is going to buy that particular graphic.  In other words I try to make everything beautiful.  That includes, having a beautiful color scheme, and a beautiful subject.

Think before you start drawing or taking pictures.  You should always ask yourself:  "Is this _____ really beautiful?  Or is it beautiful just to me?"  In fact, go ahead and ask people around if they think the subject of your graphic is beautiful.

Once you have determined your subject is actually beautiful, and not just to you or your friends, try to remember if you've seen places where people have actually bought images similar to the one you're creating.  I got that idea of taking pictures of anything that looked kind of urban and old from doing service calls in people's apartments.  One day I noticed people really liked to decorate their home with black and white pictures of old buildings. For that reason it was obvious to me to take a picture of that particular sign one day when me and my friends were walking around in Downtown LA.

Remember the subject of your graphic has be beautiful, and not just to you or your friends.  It is also helpful if you've seen that same subject in a situation where people have actually paid some money in order to get it.

I'm not saying you should be out trying to copy every picture you see out there.  If you do that, you won't find any kind of reward doing this work.  Well, at least I wouldn't.  I'm just saying you should always make sure the subject of your graphic is beautiful.

Would you pay for dinner at a restaurant if the food wasn't completely cooked?

Neither would I.  Quality is very important in every aspect of our life, isn't it?  That includes your graphics.  For that reason you need to only offer high quality images to the public.

When I first began creating image-only graphics, I though my style would be an abstract one, you know, no symmetry, no straight lines, and very simple elements.  That's why I created Angry Red Face.  But as time has proven, images like that one rarely get purchased, in fact, I don't recall someone buying any of the images I created around the time Angry Red Face was created.

After six years I can see why.  Just look at it.  Angry Red Face looks like something anyone with a minimum knowledge of color and Photoshop 3.0 could have created.  In fact, it looks like something that was created using Microsoft Paint.  In other words, creating Angry Red Face wasn't a challenge.  The are no skills necessary to replicate it.  It is just 3 ovals, a rectangle, and a bunch of white figures pretending to be teeth. Who would pay for something they could have created?  No one.

On the other hand, if we look at Vintage Los Angeles Theatre Sign, the story is completely different.

Special skills were necessary to create that particular image.  I remember taking 9 of 10 pictures of the sign because I couldn't get a shot where the image was centered and straight.  I stood on that empty alley that smelled like hobo pee and kept shooting until I was completely happy with one picture.  After that I needed to come up with a way to make this photo more appealing to the eye.  The original picture had the sign painted red, but everything else around it was painted tan.  The picture as it was wasn't very beautiful.  So the bright idea came to me to find a way to make everything black and white except the sign.  I went on-line and looked for tutorials on how to work with layers and how to isolate the sign so it wouldn't be turned black and white.

Vintage Los Angeles Theatre Sign wasn't created in one hour and without any problems.  It took dedication, effort, acquiring new skills, plus two hours or so selecting the right pixels so they wouldn't be turned black and white.  In other words, you would need to go through a lot if you wanted to replicate this image.  It was a challenge for me back then.

When it comes to image creation quality, go for the difficult images.  Make your best effort until your images look exactly like you pictured them.  If you work hard enough, you will develop the skills necessary to edit any picture the way you want regardless of the kind of software or camera you're using.

I took that picture with a HP Photosmart M537 camera.  Great camera for about $150 in 2007 when I bought it new.  And here is the biggest surprise, I edited that picture with Photoshop 3.0, the same software I'd used to create Angry Red Face three years earlier.

Let me close this section by saying, Image Creation Quality is not something you'll find in fancy and expensive cameras and software, it is inside your head, in the effort you put to make your images beautiful.

You don't need to pay 1000s of dollars for a commercial on TV.  You don't need to post a huge billboard next to a freeway exit or on top of your house.  And you don't need to go on TV telling people why they need to buy your graphics.

However you do need a way to make it easy to find your pictures/drawings.  And that's all what advertisement really is: An easy way to find your graphics.

I'm sure there are many ways to advertise your graphics successfully, however, in this section I'm only going to cover the one that has worked in my experience.  With that out of the way, here is the most effective way I use to advertise my graphics.


Why is tagging so important?  Tagging is the cheapest, most efficient, and dynamic way to make your graphics easy to find.  Again, just look at the two products I've listed in this Create And Earn Tip.

Angry Red face has no tags at all while Vintage Los Angeles Theatre sign has several tags related to the image.  As a result of this people looking for angry red faces will not find our design while people looking for vintage signs will.

A trick I use to tag my graphics nowadays is asking myself: "If I wanted to buy a picture of _____ what words would I use trying to find it?"  The answers to that question become my tags.

And please don't spam-tag.  If you don't know what spam-tagging is, it is the habit of trying to sell something as something that is it not, or trying to sell something because that something is vaguely related to something else. A clear example I've seen is a picture of Santa Monica Beach with tags such as "Los Angeles" "Hollywood" "California".  While Santa Monica Beach is in Los Angeles and at the same time in California, and somewhat related to Hollywood, people looking for pictures of Santa Monica Beach are not going to type "Los Angeles" "Hollywood" or "California" when doing a search, are they?

Think about it, wouldn't a person looking for a picture of the beach be more likely to type "beach", "beach picture", "picture of the beach" instead of the three previously mentioned?

On top of that, people who are actually looking for pictures of "Los Angeles", "California", and "Hollywood" are going to become very frustrated to get search results containing pictures of Santa Monica Beach.  Please don't spam-tag.  If you have done so in the past, that's OK, no need to hit your head against the wall.  I'm sure you didn't do it on purpose.  I've made that mistake in the past too, in fact, I wouldn't be surprised to find one or two of our images with what is considered "spam-tagging".  Just remember to stop doing it the next time you tag an image.


We've come to the end of this tip.  I hope you have learned from my mistakes in a fraction of time it took me to learn from them.  Remember to give value through your graphics to your costumers.  How?

1. Make sure your subject is beautiful (and not just to you).
2. Create images with the highest image creation quality possible.  Go that extra mile, get new skills if necessary.
3. Tag your graphics properly so people will be able to find them.

One last thing I have to say is this tip only covers image-only graphics.  Later I will write another "Monetary Value" tip related to text-only graphics.

Please write down your comments, questions, suggestions and subscribe to this blog to be notified when a new Create And Earn Tip comes out.  I hope you've gotten as much value from this tip as I intended to give.  Happy creating and earning.

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